Saturday, January 20, 2018

Now on Netflix: The Open House (2018)

The Open House (2018) - Written and Directed by Matt Angel, Suzanne Coote; Starring Dylan Minnette, Piercey Dalton, Sharif Atkins.

By Kenny Howell

Wouldn't it be creepy if you had an open house and someone stayed in the house and terrorized you for a few days?

That, I am assuming, was the genesis behind The Open House, the new Netflix horror that pretty much doesn't put any work in after that concept is established. A mom and a son (Piercey Dalton and Dylan Minnette) move into a remote house after the death of their patriarch, and things are super creepy for several days. They were out of money because of their father/husband was terrible with his finances, so they get to move into a relative's house why it is on the market as long as they don't interfere with its sell. That allows for this mysterious person or thing to get into the house and torment them for a few days.

Friday, January 19, 2018

Now on Netflix: Step Sisters (2018)

Step Sisters (2018) - Directed by Charles Stone III; Written by Chuck Hayward; Starring Megalyn Echikunwoke, Eden Sher, Gage Golightly, Alessandra Torresani, Lyndon Smith, Matt McGory, Marque Richardson.

By Kenny Howell

Trying to capture some of that Pitch Perfect popularity, Netflix goes into the world of step in this silly comedy.

Jamilah is the president of her sorority and captain of their step team. She is headed to Harvard Law School, she hopes, because both her parents went there and she is praying for a legacy endorsement. But they aren't going to give it to her. They think she hasn't earned it, and that she is trying to get by on nepotism, which is pretty much true.

She is also a liaison to her school's dean, who also went to Harvard and hopes that he will get her in as well. He agrees if she covers up a mess. Another dysfunctional sorority, Sigma Beta Beta, which is predominately white, has had a social media controversy when one of their sisters is filmed having sex during a party.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Now on Netflix: Long Shot (2017)

Long Shot (2017) - Directed by Jacob LaMendola.

By Kenny Howell

On a summer day back in 2003, a teenager girl was murdered in the middle of the street in Los Angeles.

Juan Catalan was attending a Dodgers game with his daughter at the time, but was later arrested for the murder. There was a witness, and she provided a description of the murderer, one that looked very similar to Juan in the artist's sketch. Juan was in the neighborhood later that evening as well, so it placed him near the murder at least at some point in the night.

But it wasn't Juan because he was at the Dodgers when the murder actually happened. But there was no way for them to prove it. That is until Juan remembered that there was something being filmed there during the game in the section where he was sitting.

Now on Netflix: Friends From College (2017)

Friends From College (2017) - Created by Francesca Delbanco, Nicholas Stoller; Starring Keegan-Michael Key, Cobie Smulders, Fred Savage, Annie Parisse, Nat Faxon, Jae Suh Park, Billy Eichner, Greg German, Ike Barinholtz.

By Kenny Howell

Some things on paper seem like a sure thing.

A cast with Keegan-Michael Key (Keanu), Cobie Smulders (Captain America: The Winter Soldier), Fred Savage, Nat Faxon (The Way Way Back), Billy Eichner (Billy on the Street), Ike Barinholtz (Suicide Squad), cameos by Seth Rogen (Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising), Kate McKinnon (Ghostbusters) and Chris Elliott (Better Off Single), and co-created by Nicholas Stoller, the filmmaker behind such comedies as Forgetting Sarah Marshall and Neighbors.

But Friends From College is far from a sure thing. There are funny moments, it's hard not to get them from the talented cast, but there also some laugh free, bordering on annoying episodes.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Now on Netflix: The Incredible Jessica James (2017)

The Incredible Jessica James (2017) - Written and Directed by Jim Strouse; Starring Jessica Williams, Chris O'Dowd, Lakeith Stanfield, Noel Wells.

By Kenny Howell

A couple of years ago, Jim Strouse went back to basics and wrote a simple story about a divorced cartoonist trying to get back out there.

People Places Things was a delightful surprise, and Strouse did this novel thing of having a really charming cast, led by Jemaine Clement, tell this story, something we had seen before, but felt fresh and fun in their hands.

That formula is back in The Incredible Jessica James, with The Daily Show correspondent Jessica Williams (who was also in People Places Things) in the lead, alongside the delightful Chris O'Dowd (Mascots), Lakeith Stanfield (Atlanta) and Noel Wells (Dreamland).

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Now on Netflix: Heroin(e) (2017)

Heroin(e) (2017) - Directed by Elaine McMillion Sheldon.

By Kenny Howell

Three women try to fight the horrible opioid addiction that is devastating Huntington, West Virginia in this short subject documentary from Netflix.

Huntington has been one of the hardest hit areas in America when it comes to drug overdoses, nearly 10 times over the national average in 2015. Three women are among those fighting the horrible affliction, Fire Chief Jan Rader, Drug Court Judge Patricia Keller, and Necia Freeman, a woman who runs a ministry for prostitutes.

The film mostly focuses on Rader and Keller. Despite the probably soul crushing day to day job of both women, they approach it with an overwhelming optimism. Rader often goes on the calls where people have overdosed, and has touched a lot of lives, saving men like Mickey Watson and giving him a chance. Keller handles getting them back on track in drug court, a program that helps former and current drug users to get off of them and integrate back into society.

Now on Netflix: In the Shadow of Iris (2017)

In the Shadow of Iris (2017) - Directed by Jalil Lespert; Written by Andrew Bovell, Jeremie Guez, Jalil Lespert; Starring Romain Duris, Charlotte Le Bon, Jalil Lespert, Camille Cottin.

By Kenny Howell

A clever mystery is set up but never paid off in this Netflix original film from France.

A down on his luck mechanic named Max, played by the always great Romain Duris (Populaire), is approached with a pretty interesting proposition. He is divorced and struggles to be a father to his kid. He also has a bunch of debt and a criminal past. So when he is offered a dangerous but lucrative job, he takes it. The job is to "kidnap" a wealthy banker's wife so they can split the ransom when it is paid. It is unsure at the beginning what the wife's motives are, why she would want to be kidnapped to collect money that could be hers in the first place, but things become clearer after a few twists and turns through the first part of the film.

The rest is what is the problem. I am obviously not going to give up the plot twists because some of them are quite fun, but when you get down to the nuts and bolts at the end, it is a bit unsatisfying. Part of that has to do with why Max is chosen for this job. A moment that could have been a big revealing turn in the film is kind of explained away in a sentence. And then the final act comes and some unnecessary moments, one giant one in particular, changes the characters in a way that doesn't fall in line with what he had learned so far.

Great mysteries build and build, twisting you in different directions but ultimately getting you to that big conclusion. In the Shadow of Iris only gets about halfway there.

In the Shadow of Iris is now streaming on Netflix.

Rating: **1/2